A video of police in New York grabbing a woman and pushing her to the ground as her young child looks on has turned up the heat on the city’s law enforcement.
The footage, which has been shared widely on social media, shows several police officers in a Brooklyn subway station in a heated exchange with a woman holding her small child’s hand. After their angry conversation escalates and becomes physical, four officers wrestle her to the ground and handcuff her while an onlooker repeatedly says “that’s too much”.
They then lift her off the floor and walk her out of the station as she continues to shout at them.
The incident apparently began when the woman was stopped from boarding a train because she was wearing her face mask incorrectly An NYPD spokeswoman said that the altercation was provoked by the woman herself: “This individual was arrested only after her behavior toward officers warranted police action”.
The video is the latest of a number showing city police tackling and arresting citizens using surprising, even shocking levels of force. One video shot in the East Village showed a plain clothes officer – himself not wearing a mask – throwing a man to the ground before punching and slapping him, then dragging him across the pavement.
It has also been noted that many of the people on the end of police action in these videos are people of colour. Those who accuse the police of racist behaviour also point to recent figures released by the force indicating that more than 80 per cent of summonses it issued for social distancing violations went to minorities.
Mr de Blasio himself tweeted about the incident, writing that “Face coverings are important to protect everybody — they’re not optional. But no one wants to see an interaction turn into this. We’ve made progress with de-escalation. This isn’t it.”
The latest footage emerged just as New York police commissioner Dermot Shea firmly defended the NYPD from allegations of racism and resistance to accountability. On a call with mayor Bill de Blasio at a televised press conference, he strongly denied that the incidents caught on various videos indicated institutional racism on the part of the NYPD.
“I think we can all agree that what we’ve seen on some of those videos is incredibly disheartening, it’s not what we wanna see, and it’s quite frankly disturbing … We also have to recognise that police officers are human. They are you, and they make mistakes. They aren’t infallible. So that’s the backdrop.
“But I will push back strongly on any notion that this is business as usual for the NYPD, or that this is quote unquote ‘racist policing’. I think this could not be anything further from the truth.
“Let’s remember that we are a minority majority police department. Fact. We make fewer arrests than we ever have. Fact. We make fewer summonses issues, and that’s whether it’s in a pandemic or not in a pandemic. Our record over the last six-and-a-half years is there for anyone to see in how we police this city with the lightest possible touch.”
And while regions of New York State writ large will soon be able to start slowly reopening if they meet seven specific criteria, New York City has so far only met four of them.
“We have issued a small number of summonses, even fewer arrests, tied to Covid. Are they mostly to minority members of this city? Yes they are, and I think you knew that answer before you asked the question … disparities exist in every facet of life, not just in New York City, but in this country. And it’s rooted in much deeper issues than the New York City Police Department.”